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Why is mental health awareness important?

The Mental Health Foundation in the UK reports that 50% of mental health problems are established by age 14 and 75% by age 24. It is important to be fully aware of mental health to firstly monitor your own well being, secondly to educate others, and thirdly to get the necessary help and medical attention.

In this article I will be shedding light on what mental health is, the causes, symptoms, and what you should do in case you have a mental health issue.

  • Let us understand the term mental health.

The WHO definition of mental health is, “the state of well being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stress of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her own community.

In lay man’s terms it means how we think, feel, and behave. It is an incorporation of our emotional, physiological,behavioral, and social well being.

  • Poor mental health vs Mental illness/disorders

Poor mental health means that a person sometimes experiences an imbalance on his emotional and behavioral scale. Let me give an instance: You had a rough day at work, came home exhausted and you may not want to interact with your family or may not want to go to work the next day.

Mental illness is a diagnosable disorder that affects the way we think, feel, behave and adversely impacts your day to day activities.

          Continuous poor mental health may lead to mental illness.

  • Risk factors of mental illness

Our mental health can be disrupted by many factors, some mental disorders even have unknown causes. The most common causes that leads to mental illnesses are listed below: 

  1. Biological factors – genes or brain chemistry.
  2. Life experiences – trauma or abuse
  3. Social and financial circumstances
  4. Family history of mental health problems.
  5. Lifestyle choices.

            A 2015 study of 903 families in Iran identified several socio-economic  causes of mental health conditions including poverty and living on the outskirts of a large city.

  • Common mental illnesses/ mental disorders

There are different conditions that are recognized as mental disorders, but here are a few common ones that you should be aware of:

  1. Clinical depression – This illness is characterized by extreme, uncontrollable feelings of sadness and losing pleasure in things that were once enjoyable. A person may feel irritable, tearful, and exhausted all the time.
  2. Anxiety disorder – A person suffering from this will worry extensively and out of proportion for activities that normal people execute with ease. They may feel restless, tired, have trouble concentrating, and sleeping.
  3. Panic disorder – Having unexpected and recurring panic attacks and also worrying about having another panic attack.
  4. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder(OCD)-  Having thoughts or images or impulses that keep recurring and are difficult to get rid of.

Common obsessions like being afraid of germs, wanting to have things in a particular order. Common compulsions like excessive washing and cleaning, repeating words/numbers in a pattern

  1.  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD)- Having repeated and intrusive distressing memories of an event/events. The person may relive the event through flashbacks or nightmares.
  2. Bipolar disorder- A person having this experiences extreme mood swings from depressive lows to manic highs. On some days they may feel lively, outgoing, and extremely happy while on some days they may feel depressed, irritated and low.
  3. Eating disorder – It is a psychological condition that causes unhealthy eating habits to develop like overeating or someone may be so self conscious of their body and weight that they eat very less resulting in being underweight.
  • Early signs and symptoms

You may be aware of someone who is anxious about social meetings or someone in your family has been unusually quiet lately. These are signs of mental health issues. Here are some more signs and symptoms that a person suffering from mental illnesses is likely to display:

  1. Continuously feeling sad or low.
  2. Lack of interest in things that made you happy or excited before.
  3. Excessive fears or worries or guilt.
  4. Extreme mood changes of highs and lows.
  5. Inability to concentrate and trouble sleeping.
  6. Constant feeling of exhaustion even without being involved in physical activities.
  7. Inability to deal with daily stresses or problems
  8. Inability to let go of past events and replaying the scenario in your head time and time again.
  9. Excessive anger and hostility
  10. Suicidal thoughts.
  • What should you do if you have any of the symptoms of mental disorders?

If you feel you have a mental illness or have any of the symptoms discussed above the best recommendation would be to get an expert’s help. There are some mental illnesses that do not require medical attention and some people are able to recover on their own. Talking and sharing with someone you trust is the first doable and effective step. The next step would be talking to a psychologist or a psychiatrist who would suggest the right treatment for you. Find out what works best for you and go ahead with that.

It is crucial to know your mental health and strive toward preserving and or restoring it. According to the Indian Journal of Psychiatry in 2019, even before the pandemic at least 50 million children in India were affected with mental health issues. Having a sound mental health has a positive impact on your physical health, enhances your productivity, and your overall contribution to your family and society. Having a mental disorder is nothing to be ashamed of; it is an illness and it can be treated. The earlier you recognize it, the sooner you can get treated and get better.

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